8 Eco-driving tips to save fuel
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Eco-driving is good for vehicle owners and the environment.
Did you know that your driving technique — not just driving distance and time — affects how much fuel your vehicle uses? The North American Council for Freight Efficiency states that drivers can impact the freight efficiency of a tractor-trailer by more than 20%. Eco-driving makes it possible to save hundreds of dollars per vehicle each year on fuel though, and makes up an important part of a fleet sustainability program.
What is eco-driving?
Eco-driving is a method of driving a vehicle with the goal of using less fuel and having less of an impact on the environment.
Who invented eco-driving? The first use of the term “eco-driving” is attributed to the Swedish National Driving School in 1998. The concept then appeared in some European driving programs in the early 2000s and has since gone global.
What can be achieved by eco-driving?
There are many advantages to eco-driving. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving can reduce your gas mileage by 15-30% (at highway speeds) or 10-40% (in stop-and-go traffic). As fuel consumption legislation becomes tighter, it is worth adopting eco-driving techniques to improve your fleet’s carbon footprint.
Benefits of eco-driving as cited by the U.S. Forest Service:
- Lower fuel use and costs
- Reduce exhaust emissions, including CO2
- Reduce vehicle wear
- Increase safety
1. Don’t slam on the brakes
Avoid speeding up and slowing down too quickly whenever possible. Instead, traffic permitting, take your foot off of the accelerator and coast to slow down. Sudden acceleration and braking increase fuel consumption and can wear down your vehicle. Slamming on the brakes can cause the brake pads to overheat and wear down more quickly, and cause the rotors to warp.
Harsh braking can also trigger your vehicle’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) when it’s not needed, which could worsen brake performance. If you have an older vehicle model without ABS, harsh braking can cause a “flat-spot,” an uneven patch of wear, to appear on your tires.
2. Accelerate gently
Fuel consumption is directly related to how hard the engine is working, and you will use more fuel during hard acceleration because the engine must work harder. You can save fuel by easing onto the accelerator pedal.
Toyota suggests taking 5 seconds to accelerate to get your vehicle up to 20 kmph (15 mph) from a stop. One tip from Toyota is to imagine there is an egg under the gas pedal and that when you accelerate you are pressing on the egg.
3. Regulate your speed
According to Natural Resources Canada, if you change your speed back and forth from 75 kmph to 85 kmph (around 47 mph to 53 mph) every 18 seconds, you risk increasing fuel usage by a whopping 20%. For trucks traveling at 104 kmph (65 mph) there will be a fuel efficiency increase of 27% compared to the same vehicle traveling at 120 kmph (75 mph).
For as long as you can do it safely, in light of traffic conditions, try to maintain a steady speed and consider using cruise control. Letting your speed drop slightly as you ascend a hill can also be beneficial; you will regain some speed on the other side.
4. Reduce excess weight
The heavier your vehicle, the more fuel is needed to move it. In recent years, automakers have improved materials and designs in order to reduce vehicle weight, but carrying heavy items and equipment can still have a negative effect on fuel consumption.
Check if there are pieces of equipment that can be removed from the inside or top of your vehicle, that you do not need for any tasks that day. When purchasing a new vehicle, consider choosing a smaller-engined, fuel efficient model that suits your fleet needs.
5. Optimize routing
Try combining multiple trips in one and plan your route ahead of time. Stay tuned to traffic reports, note construction areas, and avoid routes that cut through busy intersections or cities if possible.
Through route optimization, you can minimize idling, reduce the risk of harsh braking, and shorten time spent driving. If you’re dealing with a fleet of vehicles, consider using technology tools that assist with dispatch and routing to coordinate your resources.
6. Avoid idling
Did you know that letting your vehicle idle for more than 10 seconds uses up more fuel than if you had turned your vehicle off and then on again? Argonne National Laboratory has stated that each day an estimated 1 million long-haul heavy-duty trucks idle during mandated rest stops. For trucks, a 10% annual reduction in idling is worth about 1% in fuel economy.
When you are not on the roads, turn off your vehicle if you expect to be idling for more than 60 seconds. If one of the primary reasons for idling is temperature control, consider investing in cab or bunk heaters, coolant heaters, storage air conditioners, or another piece of idle reduction equipment.
7. Reduce drag
Anything on top of a vehicle is going to add to the aerodynamic drag on the vehicle. Remove roof racks, boxes and other items from the top of the vehicle’s roof. Aerodynamic drag is a significant factor in the fuel economy of a tractor-trailer. Track testing has shown that a single aerodynamic device can reduce fuel use by 1% to 5%, and using several devices together can reduce fuel consumption by 25%.
8. Service your vehicle
Proper maintenance is important not only so that your vehicle will operate but also can affect fuel economy. A vehicle that is not tuned up and maintained can use up to 50% more fuel and produce 50% more emissions than a vehicle that is well maintained, according to Earth Easy.
Make sure to check tire inflation pressure as part of vehicle maintenance. According to NACFE, a truck tire that is underinflated by 10 psi can increase fuel consumption 0.5% to 1.0%. When it comes to tires, cold weather can impact tire pressure as air becomes denser when it is cold. Check tire psi when the weather first turns cold to ensure proper inflation pressures.
Why is eco-driving important?
Correcting inefficient driving techniques is good for vehicle owners and the environment. By training employees on eco-friendly driving skills, you can work together to achieve company goals for fleet sustainability and lower fuel costs.
Originally published on March 1, 2021.
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Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.
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